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Return to Work: Insight Into Evidence-Based Return to Work Guidelines
Ingrid Pederson BA

Professional Case Management
April 2012 
Volume 17  Number 2
Pages 96 - 98
  PDF Version Available!

Among the plethora of tools used by nurse case managers are disability duration guidelines, also commonly referred to as return to work guidelines. Disability duration guidelines provide parameters for expected time away from work by diagnosis that assist in a variety of manners, including benchmarking lost time away from work; identifying what job modifications need to be made to accommodate early return to work; recognizing outliers; and establishing return to work goals based on realistic expectations in managing an injured worker's return to functionality.This column focuses on one of the most widely used sets of disability duration guidelines, Official Disability Guidelines (ODG). The guidelines are published by Work Loss Data Institute in a variety of formats, including a book version, an online version, and raw data files for integration. The ODG guidelines are evidence based as opposed to consensus based and are derived from a variety of sources, including occupational and nonoccupational data. The benefit of return to work guidelines extracted from actual reported data is that they are fair and unbiased. Evidence-based return to work guidelines reflect what has been and is achievable in return to work, considering the severity, the type of treatment administered, and the type of job an injured worker is returning to. There are three major data sources used in the development of the ODG return to work guidelines including the following: 1. Actual short-term disability, long-term disability, and workers' compensation insurance claims data collected annually from cooperating sources including disability and workers' compensation carriers and major employers. Files are submitted to Work Loss Data Institute on an annual basis. These data are physician coded and include both medical and lost time. 2. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). A combination of occupational and nonoccupational disability data is collected by ODG from NHIS. National Health Interview Survey

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